The Search is on for the Super Bowl

  |  February 7, 2006   |  Comments

Search marketing has become an important component of an integrated ad campaign, but many marketers failed to include it to support Super Bowl buys.

Advertisers spent millions to showcase their brands in Super Bowl ads, but many failed to follow up with complementary search marketing campaigns. A few won praise from experts, however, for closing the loop with paid search efforts.

Interest stirred up by the big game typically leads consumers to seek out corporate sites and microsites specifically set up for Super Bowl campaigns. Since Sunday's game, Yahoo saw the number of searches for "Super Bowl XL Commercials" increase roughly 800 percent. Cadillac, Honda and Dove all bid on the term, according to Yahoo.

"In the 24, 72, to 96 hours after the event there's a tremendous search demand," Ron Belanger, senior director of channel strategy and development at Yahoo Search Marketing, told ClickZ News. "[In the past], we've seen a surge in search Sunday night, Monday, and into the workweek."

Some advertisers capitalized on that demand, while others let the opportunity pass them by.

"One of the advertisers we called attention to was Honda, promoting the Ridgeline truck," said Peter Hershberg, managing partner of Reprise Media, a search engine marketing firm that issued a preliminary Super Bowl Scorecard on Monday. The scorecard ranks each advertiser on its use of paid listings, landing pages and tie-ins to the Super Bowl, among other factors.

Honda bought the key phrase "Honda super bowl" on both Google and Yahoo. On its Yahoo listing, copy reads, "Watch the Honda Super Bowl Commercial." On Google, it says, "Learn more about the Ridgeline truck you saw during the Super Bowl." The links send visitors to a landing page about the Ridgeline truck.

"Honda did a good job of closing the loop, capturing users who went online looking for more information," continued Hershberg.

Other advertisers neglected take advantage of search marketing programs to close the loop, or link their commercial to a Web site through search. One product launch that began and ended with the $2.5 million spot was Productive Solutions Cleaner (PS Cleaner).

"PS Cleaner launched during the Super Bowl, but they did everything they could not to spread their name," said Hershberg.

Searching on the top two search engines, Google and Yahoo, failed to return appropriate results in organic or paid listings.

Other advertisers who scored poorly on Reprise's scorecard were McDonald's, Outback Steakhouse and Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest." The strikes against these marketers included very little search marketing; difficulty finding Web sites; and the lack of listed URLs in the commercials themselves.

While some marketers dropped the ball on search, others used it to their competitive advantage. Knowing that Ford would use Kermit the Frog in ads for its hybrid SUV, competitor General Motors bought the puppet's moniker as a keyword -- Ford had already done the same -- and ran ads for its hybrid program under sponsored results. Text in GM's paid listing read "Live Green, Go Yellow," and encouraged people to learn about GM FlexFuel vehicles. The link led to, a microsite where the carmaker promotes its approach to alternative fuel.

"GM did an outstanding job drafting the Ford campaign by buying 'Kermit' as a keyword to promote its own hybrid campaign," said Hershberg.

Neglect of search in Super Bowl campaigns isn't unique to this year. Belanger cites AT&T's 2000 launch of mLife with a campaign that ran during the Super Bowl. After the game, viewers searched for mLife, but could not locate information on the new offerings, he said.

"That's an example of how somebody hasn't executed wellÂ…It's all about following consumers through their media consumption habits from the couch to the computer to the cell phone," said Belanger. "You want to make sure you'll be there on their schedule."

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Enid Burns

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